Sipping Tea & Getting High

cork tea

What an awesome day in Darjeeling!  We were up at 3:30 am and ready for our 4am pickup to TIger Hill for  sunrise. Unfortunately it was overcast with drizzle. Yet another fail at sunrises… However, through the clouds we could see some amazing views of the Himalayas and perhaps Everest?

We then visited monastery and a park we named ‘Celebrity Park’. Everyone wanted to take pictures with the two blonds, Jess & Elly.  We headed to an expat favourite restaurant, Glenarys, for breakfast and Internet catchup.  They served great Americanos and vanilla cake.

bear babes

Our guide Bikku picked us up again and we went to the Darjeeling Zoological Park. This zoo was very well done and when we got our first look at the Black Asian Bear. To our surprise he was not in a cage – just a deep moat separating us from him.  The snow leopard was very handsome and he did a few sneezes for us.  The zoo has a breeding program for the snow leopards and when the cubs are at a certain age they are transferred to a wildlife sanctuary. We saw for the first time red pandas. They were nothing like what we imagined- very small, almost raccoon-like. We saw many different cats including the magnificent Bengal Tiger.  All the animals were very active and well cared for.  We checked out The Himilayan Mountaineering Institute as it was on the same property. It showcased all the different expeditions over the years to Mt. Everest. It acted also as a shrine to homegrown mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay, with a massive statue of the man in front of the institute.

Our next stop was the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre where we saw many different crafts from woodworking to weaving to artwork. Then it was tea time!  Drove up into the hills and OMG! the views were stunning – team farms for as far as the eye could see.  We sampled the first flush which is the spring tea.  There are 3 harvests and the first flush is reputed to be the best.  From 100 kilos of fresh picked tea, it reduces to 22 kilos after drying, etc.  Price per kilo was 1000 rupees.  After sampling at  two tea gardens we headed back down to Siliguri and prepared for tomorrow’s drive.  Jess wasn’t feeling well and called an early night. Cork and I went to the pharmacy to stock up on electrolytes and questioned Jess’s symptoms.

It was great to have a day off from driving and Darjeeling should be on everyone’s list. I know I’ll be back.